What are the scientific, time-tested methods for hiring the best people?

Stanford MBA school professor Bob Sutton lets us know which employee selection methods were best and worst as predictors of job performance:

The upshot of this research is that work sample tests (e.g., seeing if people can actually do key elements of a job — if a secretary can type or a programmer can write code), general mental ability (IQ and related tests), and structured interviews had the highest validity of all methods examined…

The study he’s citing is “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings.” The paper’s abstract describes how the most effective use of the three is through combination:

This article summarizes the practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research in personnel selection. On the basis of meta-analytic findings, this article presents the validity of 19 selection procedures for predicting job performance and training performance and the validity of paired combinations of general mental ability (GMA) and the 18 other selection procedures. Overall, the 3 combinations with the highest multivariate validity and utility for job performance were GMA plus a work sample test (mean validity of.63), GMA plus an integrity test (mean validity of.65), and GMA plus a structured interview (mean validity of.63). A further advantage of the latter 2 combinations is that they can be used for both entry level selection and selection of experienced employees. The practical utility implications of these summary findings are substantial. The implications of these research findings for the development of theories of job performance are discussed.

Sutton should know — he’s the author of a number of excellent business books. I highly recommend: The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t and Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst.

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